A Newcastle research group behind life-saving treatments for breast cancer patients has been honoured with a key to the city.
Breast Cancer Trials celebrates 40 years of clinical research this year, and Newcastle City Council has recognised the group’s work at a Key to the City presentation on Friday.
“It is incredibly special to be recognised by the City of Newcastle for the work done by Breast Cancer Trials over the past 40 years,” Soozy Smith, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Trials, said.
“Our research has led to significant advances in breast cancer treatments, and preventative therapies, over that time, and has saved millions of lives in collaborative research worldwide.”
Established in Melbourne in 1978, the research group – including the Professor John Forbes AM – relocated to Newcastle in 1987 and has co-ordinated its trials program from the city ever since.
“A lot of people don’t realise that here we are – an internationally-recognised, esteemed group of breast cancer trial investigators, and our headquarters is here in Newcastle,” Dr Smith said.
“But we have worked well here in Newcastle, so why not Newcastle?”
Dr Smith said Breast Cancer Trials was the largest, and oldest, independent oncology clinical trials research groups in the southern hemisphere. It had played a role in groundbreaking research including the landmark IBIS clinical trial, which proved Tamoxifen reduced breast cancer rates by nearly a third, and the HERA trial to decrease the risk of recurrence. It was also involved in the POEMS trial – which increased the chances of younger women with breast cancer being able to have children after treatment.
“Forty years ago, we thought breast cancer was just one disease and most women were treated with mastectomy,” Dr Smith said.
“But now we know that breast cancer is many diseases and it requires many different approaches to not just identify the type of breast cancer a patient may have, but to personalise that patient’s treatment.”
She said breast cancer has been a great success story in improving the survival of people who suffer.
“But there is still more to do,” Dr Smith said.
“This year, 18,000 women in Australia will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 3000 women in New Zealand. In the age group of 25-to-49, breast cancer is the biggest cause of death from cancer.”
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Breast Cancer Trials “helped establish Newcastle as a world leader in medical research”.
"We as a city are so proud of the people involved in this life-saving organisation," Cr Nelmes said.
"More than that - we are so very grateful."